Copper In Electric Vehicles

Coppers Role In Electric Vehicle Production

Copper is at the heart of the electric vehicle revolution as it plays a critical part in the 3 key areas of electrical transportation growth: energy storage, charging infrastructure, and the production of electric vehicles. Copper is significantly used in electric vehicles because of it’s low cost, paired with high durability, malleability and conductivity. On average, electric vehicles use up to 4 times more copper than regular gasoline vehicles. The average gasoline powered car requires 20kg of copper, while hybrid electric cars require 40kg, and fully electric cars can require as much as 80kg of copper per vehicle. Copper’s high conductivity means smaller motor components can be made, which can be packed much closer together translating to improved efficiency as less power is lost through poor conductivity.

Apart from its use in electric vehicle production, copper also plays an important role in electric vehicle infrastructure. In fact, Wood Mackenzie estimates that the EV sector will need 250% more copper by 2030 just for charging stations alone. This estimate includes bets that there will be over 20 million EV charging points globally (Source). Charging stations alone contain 0.7 kg of copper (for a 3.3 kW charger) or 8 kg (for a 200 kW charger).

The market for electric vehicles is growing rapidly. Sales of electric and hybrid vehicles in the U.S., Europe and China have increased for each of the last 10 years, and the electric vehicle market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 33.6% from 2020 to reach $2,495.4 billion by 2027. (Source)

Essential Qualities of Copper For Electric Transportation

  • Electrical conductivity – copper transports and conducts electricity efficiently and safely which is essential for electric vehicle power generation and delivery.
  • High ductility – with a high ductility, copper will not break under high stress
  • Low cost – copper is extremely affordable when compared to other highly conductive metals such as silver or gold 
  • Corrosion resistant – copper has a higher corrosion resistance to acids than many alternatives
  • Low thermal expansion – copper expands and contracts less than other alternatives, namely aluminum, which makes it ideal for electrical wiring 

Drivers of Electric Vehicle Demand and Production Increases

Around the world governments and global economies are investing billions of dollars into economic development and funding green initiatives. 

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to stop the sale of new diesel and gasoline vehicles by 2030, and many other nations are embracing the drive towards the electric vehicle revolution as well. The ‘European Green Deal’ aims for the EU to be climate neutral by 2050 which has spurred countries in the EU to increase their electric vehicle programs. Germany, for one, has unveiled a $130 billion euro recovery budget, which includes subsidies for buyers of battery powered vehicles. 

Similar incentives have been launched in other countries. For example, Israel has announced a plan to phase out fossil-fuel vehicles by 2030, while China has similar plans on target for 2035. China is already making a shift towards renewable energy power and plans to be carbon neutral by 2060. In other news China plans to have 50% electric, plug-in hybrid or fuel cell-powered vehicles by 2035 in a shift away from conventional cars. The other half are to be hybrid electric vehicles. To support this, China is building its own manufacturer of electric vehicles. Norway plans to remove traditional gasoline powered vehicles from the road by 2025, with an 88% market share for electric cars, the country plans to ban new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2025. (Source)

Lastly, The Biden administration is set to introduce a green infrastructure and clean energy plan which was initially estimated at $3 trillion. The plan is likely to include upgrades to municipal transit networks, expansion of broadband/wireless broadband to all Americans, as well as investment in electric vehicle infrastructure. (Source)

In 2020, total global sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) reached over 3.2 million, accounting for over 5% of all automobile sales worldwide.


No Viable Copper Alternative

To meet the forecasted uptick in electric vehicle demand, there is no current viable alternative to copper. Copper’s physical properties make it the best metal to conduct electricity, and accommodate the higher temperatures that are common in EVs. Aluminum, the closest alternative, although cheaper than copper, aluminum cables need to have a cross-sectional area that is double the size of any copper equivalent to conduct the same amount of electricity. Additionally, copper is 100% recyclable, meaning it can be used time and time again without any loss of conductivity. 

An Essential Metal For A Greener Future 

Copper is key for driving towards a greener future. In order to meet global demand for electric vehicle powered initiatives copper is needed in large quantities. As government funding is poured into green initiatives around the globe copper exploration is more important than ever. Learn more about The Future of Copper.